Louisiana Legislature approves longer, heavier loads at ports
June 6, 2022
One bill headed to the Louisiana governor’s desk is touted to address supply chain concerns at Louisiana ports.
House lawmakers voted 72-28 to advance an amended bill to create a new tandem load permit for trucks hauling to and from shipping ports in the state. Senate lawmakers signed off on the changes with unanimous consent.
Speaking on the House floor prior to the vote, Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, said the bill would help to address a supply chain crisis.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, previously told legislators that the rule change is needed to help address problems in the trucking industry that he attributed to a truck driver shortage.
“Constituents are trying to get products and supplies, and everywhere you turn around the people they are trying to buy them from are waiting on products and supplies so they can sell them,” Smith told testified.
“One of the problems we are having is we just don’t have enough trucks to bring all of these trailers. That is what is creating the backup.”
The bill, SB477, would allow tandem loads, or combination loads. Specifically, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would be authorized to issue a special, biannual permit for affected loads.
Tandem loads would be permitted on 20-foot shipping containers with a single tractor. One change made to the bill in committee would set the load limit at 140,000 pounds. The Senate-approved version authorized 135,000-pound load limits.
Loads could not be more than 40,000 pounds per axle – up from 37,000 pounds per axle. Another change made in committee includes a 60,000-pound cap per tridem axle spread.
Overall length could not be more than 83 feet. The bill version approved by the Senate authorized overall length up to 75 feet.
The department must approve routes for the tandem loads.
Tandem shipping containers could apply for permits to travel on designated state and U.S. routes. Interstate highways are excluded.
Transportation department concerns
One more House change limits the authorization to a pilot program through July 2026.
The revision was made to address Louisiana DOTD concerns about larger trucks on state roadways.
DOTD Deputy Secretary Eric Kalivoda previously told lawmakers the agency is concerned about adding more cargo weight to roads and bridges.
“We just keep ratcheting things up every year with more and more overweight permits. Where does it stop?” Kalivoda said. “It ultimately has an impact on the infrastructure in the state, and it has to be paid for.”
Supporters tout improved efficiency
Advocates say the change would improve efficiency at the ports.
“In essence, what you are doing is you are going to be moving more product in a quicker time with less traffic on the road,” Smith said.
As a result, he said the rule would reduce congestion on the road, reduce road wear and tear, and reduce emissions.
Advocates say the changes are necessary to help ports in the state to stay competitive. They add that there is not enough time to wait for new truck drivers to come into the industry.
OOIDA concern about longer, heavier loads
Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says longer, heavier loads significantly compromise margins of safety on roadways.
The Association also challenges driver shortage claims. Instead, Pugh says trucking suffers from overcapacity – too many trucks, trailers, and drivers.
“Wages, working conditions, and rampant driver turnover are proof of this.”
The governor can sign the bill into law, let it become law without his signature, or he can veto it. LL